Sunday Sundries … COLD !!!

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Courtesy: Flickr James Clear

The weather is beginning to turn. We are now the fourth week of November and we are heading into negative territory. Currently it is a flat ZERO outside. It was nippy when I left the house this evening, and it was colder when I left, even with layers, as it was, I was chilled.

It was an uneventful weekend. Santa Claus rolled through the city on Saturday morning. Our building sits on the step off corner for all the parades that roll through the downtown core, placing us at the maximum viewing point.

Last night we had a good showing for the Saturday night meeting. And we talked about resisting change.

The book says that when we get sober, the only thing we have to change is everything …

Easier said than done.

I departed as usual and like I said, it was chilly out. It was a good thing that the church’s heating system is computerized. It was nice and toasty when I opened up. We were missing all of our women tonight. The flu is making its way around at the moment.

We sat a small crowd, and read a story that was 14 pages long, so we made two circuits around the room, and then the room got to talk about it.

Some of the old stories are really harsh. Back in the day, not unlike today, in some cases, the man in our story really had it bad. A late bloomer, in regards to when he began to drink, unlike most stories, the early writers, for the most part, were weaned on alcohol, it seemed.

If you end up in a sanitarium once, you might have a problem. In our man’s case tonight, he hit Bellevue hospital thirty five times. Yes, that is correct, 35 times.

He not only drank, he got married, had three children, and was in the hole for most of the story. It was one of the saddest stories we have read to date.

Most sad stories, even in our book, have somewhat happy endings, wherein our folks, find the way, the meet us, get sober, and turn their lives around. But not before some major loss or tragedy.

Early on, a son of our man grows up and with not even two nickles to rub together, becomes a show shine boy, were talking the late 1930’s. He makes some change, but further on in the story, his drunk father happens upon him and dad takes his earnings, and drinks them away.

It is a bad scene. You think, in this read, that things just could not get any worse, and that eventually, he has to Get It. Our man eventually does get it, the kicker in the story was the loss of that son to a streetcar accident.

Now the story reads … nobody would begrudge him a drink, after loosing a child. But bolstered by two recovering alcoholics, one under each arm, our man tackles, identifying his sons remains, then burying that son, sober …

Some of us have had tragic loss in our lives. For myself, when that happened to me, it was the drink that soothed the visual and helped kill the pain of loss, until Todd stepped in and got me the help I desperately needed. That was a year before my own personal tragedy.

You never know when the people in the room are going to come in handy, and to what degree some of us will go to to make sure our fellow men and women, get by, without taking that first drink.

The story talks about us drunks who go to meetings, and are happy, cleaned up folks, who help each other by swapping stories. That’s what our writer calls us, when he opens his story. Because when he was at his worst, he happens upon the rooms, and sees these men doing what they do best, and he just can’t believe his eyes.

But every one of us has a story, a journey we have to walk, before we finally figure it out and we come in.

I’ve had plenty of my share of tragedy. And I survived them.

In two weeks time, I will celebrate 14 years without a drug or a drink.

One day at a time …

More to come, stay tuned …

Thursday – Some People Don’t make It !

tumblr_m187ytnKBN1r3fvxmo1_500 thedarkblueThe weather is definitely cooler. The trees have begun their turns. Lots of yellows in the neighborhood. But I haven’t noticed bursts of color in other parts of my commute, as of yet. I was standing on my balcony today and noticed the trees.

The first holiday of the “2015 Holiday Season” is just days away. I went book shopping the other day and I noticed as I came down the stairs to the check out, that they had CHRISTMAS CARDS, out for sale. We are the beginning of October right now. I stepped up to the checkout and looked at the young lady behind the counter and said …”Christmas cards, really, REALLY !!!”

God Give Me Strength !

I’ve finished my read of The Great Reformer, Pope Francis.

It’s difficult not to love a man who lives simply, loves deeply and wants to bring Jesus to the people in every walk of life. A man who calls us to serve, “the least of these” because we can and we must. He wants to build community across racial, socioeconomic, ethnic and religious borders.

The church has had its stance on several fronts that hasn’t changed since the 1960’s. Some of these stances are never going to be changed, and others, it seems are on the table for discussion.

The Pope came to the U.S. with a specific goal in mind. He stayed away from Hot Button issues, however the Papal Nuncio to Washington, who famously, served in the Vatican during the run up to the conclave that elected Jorge Bergoglio pope. He had a major faux pas in bringing that anti-Christ woman to meet the pope. He clearly failed and we are told may pay dearly for that appearance.

One must admire a man, who has stayed “on message” for most of his priesthood. Prior to the Dirty War, Jorge Bergoglio saw the world in a specific way and he treated his priests and others, in a way that was not so papal. Jorge’s saving grace was his spiritual transformation that turned his world upside down. The message changed. And a man who only served the church became a man who served the people. And that changed the entire ball game.

The Pueblo Fiel, the People of God, are the most important part of church. Without them, there is no church. Francis’ entire ministry hinges on serving everyone. And that goes for everybody. Although Francis has shared certain words on specific subjects, the fact that he welcomes “everybody” is telling. We are all people of God, no matter our orientation, background, sin or omission.

If we don’t go out and love our brothers and sisters, who is going to do that for us ?

You might want to judge Pope Francis on his few words, or on what he might be saying, from behind the safety of Vatican walls, but you cannot ignore how Francis goes about his days and nights, the austerity in which he lives, and the way he sees church, which is a total 180 degree change from the Old Guard Papacies.

It is written that Pope John Paul II was a great man, who certainly had his faults. No pope is perfect, as Jorge reminds us. Nobody is perfect. Only God is perfect. I relate the story on one Christmas, before John Paul II became infirm, a group of Cardinals came to greet the pope and ignored the Swiss Guard standing at attention outside the residence. They did not greet him, nor did they acknowledge him either.

Afterwards, Pope John Paul II came outside and spoke to the young man and had a chair for him to sit down, because the Pope had brought him some food to eat. The guard replied that he cannot sit down, “on the job!”

The Pope replied … Well, I am the Pope, have a seat and eat this treat …

This story is a highlight in Pope John Paul II’s reasons for canonization.

When Francis was elected, he shunned extravagance. He paid his bills like any other priest. He rebuffed the papal suite and rooms to go with it. Like John Paul II who wore hand me downs, and very little expensive clothing, Pope Francis is particularly similar to John Paul II in many ways.

I am highly literate on John Paul II.

Pope Francis lives in Casa Santa Marta in a small 2 room apartment. He shares his meals and masses with those who work in the area, in the Vatican, and the residence. He does his daily prayer and meditation to start out every day at 4:30 in the morning.

He works during the day, and at night, he goes into his rooms and changes into simple street clothes, and goes out to meet the poor, to serve them and to be with them. His outreach to the “least of these” is an example of a holy man who forgoes the trappings of Church, and simply goes out and does what is right.

His concern for “the people” and as well, his Church, is indicative of a man who came to Rome, not expecting to become Pope. He had asked certain people back in Argentina to continue their jobs, that he would be back very soon.

As we know, things change. In a very simple but direct address to the cardinals in the pre conclave meetings, swung the pendulum in his favor. And it was because of that 170 word speech, Jorge Bergoglio became Pope.

He never got to go home again. And after becoming Pope, he still calls his friends, and invites them to visit, and he has brought the world he came from, into the world at large.

Before you judge someone or rely on preconceived notions about Pope and the Church, I highly recommend you read what has been written about Francis. It was a truly enjoyable reading.

**** **** ****

Some People Don’t Make It

Another Thursday and another speaker. This night was reserved for our local DCM. That would be “District Committee Member,” who serves our district of the Island of Montreal fpr the area.

I, for example, hold a position as GSR for one of my home groups. That would be “General Service Representative” The GSR is the go between the group and the district. We meet once a month, to discuss news, hold workshops and do service for our specific groups.

Anyways …

The main message from her tonight was this … We should be so grateful for what we have, and to recognize just what we have in the rooms. That our program is one of “Spiritual Transformation,” that in order to reap the benefits, we heard it again tonight, we must be prepared to go to any length.

It seems the women have the market on this call.

They know what to do, and they do it gladly and willingly.

Some women suffer much more than the men do. And maybe this is why they work it as hard as they do. And some of us men, emboldened by their example have adopted their practices.

Some alcoholics come from alcoholic homes. And others come from homes where they never saw their parents take a drink. Many of us have siblings who drank, got sober, and either by their example we followed in their footsteps, or we got here on our own steam, many of those siblings went back out and paid the ultimate price.

I know, that a good number of our membership have lost family members to the disease of alcoholism. Which makes it a little more personal, why we stick so close to what we have and we go to any length to keep this going, even in the worst of times.

In the end, one of our men took 31 years. There was lots of Cake to go around.

There is only one book I need to read in order to understand where I come from, and quite possibly where I might be going if I stick around long enough to see the miracle happen for myself and my friends.

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …

Thursday – Feed the “Right” Fire

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Our local weather has indeed turned. We are sitting at (10c) at this hour.

Last night it was cool enough to warrant a little heat, just to break the chill. Today, as it happened, I crated the A.C. for the Winter. We won’t need it again this year. It was cool and comfortable all day, but as the sun went down, it was markedly cooler.

I broke out the winter jacket and my toque collection.

It is October already, can you believe it? Thanksgiving is not far away. The second Monday in October, but I always cook on the Sunday. And This year I have a full table, with the addition of Baby Mama and Baby LuLu. Which meant, today, I went to my local butcher shop and ordered a 15 lb turkey that will be in on Monday for pick up.

It was a full day of coffee dates and get togethers. I had more coffee today than I usually drink in a weeks time. My tummy is not happy at all.

We headed out for our usual Thursday fare. And a very good friend of mine was in the hot seat.

I’ve known her since she came in. I’ve been present for her, at several meetings in town. And tonight, we got to hear her share.

Oh to be young again.

It is, on one hand, great to see young people in the rooms. But at the same time, it is terribly sad to know that alcoholism is an equal opportunity predator. I was as young as she, when I came in the first time. But I lacked a lot of what I see today in our young people. And I don’t see it the same way in many people, but there are a select few who, have learned about:

“Feeding the right fire.”

I haven’t heard those words in a long time from any of my friends, put so succinctly.

Once a fire is lit, in order to keep that fire burning, we need to feed it with fuel. And for many of us, as young people, we learned of “fire” and were enamored by it. It was warm and soothing, and in the beginning, it kept us warm and shed light on our pains, and fears.

More like, burned away our pains and fears …

But like many, once that fire was lit, it felt so good, that we heaped all the fuel onto that fire that we could to keep the burn going for as long as we could.

Sadly, in the end, we all came to that terrible “Crash and Burn” end.

Some end up in jail, some end up in hospital, many end up dead.

My young friend, at the end, was lying in a tub of water, a broken bottle on the side, and thinking that she could not go on any longer, contemplated joining the “27 Club.”

Ten points if you get that reference …

Most women I know, when the end comes or life takes a serious turn, they do what comes natural, “they call their mothers.”

That started the ball rolling, not to mention closing up shop, moving provinces, and living under “family rehab” as she put it.

She, like many, fed that fire of addiction to its bitter end. She had to stamp it out, once and for all. And she needed help. Months later, she came to us. Now she is one of our gang.

A beautiful young woman of courage, faith and beauty.

She talked of spirituality, that which she chooses to call God. And she warned us tonight that recovery is no laughing matter. And is not for the feint of heart.

Shit is going to get real, and it is going to take work.

Those who begin and end their days praying and meditating, interspersed with meetings, inventories, sponsors, and sponsees down the line, learn about the “Right Fire.”

Spirituality is a fire, that when lit, will warm our hearts and keep us warm in the cold. Because alcoholism is a cold and patient predator. But if we learn early on, what that fire means for each of us, that becomes powerful, personal flames.

Today we feed the Right Fire. And we do what is necessary to keep that fire burning.

Because we all know, each of us, what it felt like to get burned from the inside out, gong down in a hail of drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t pretty in the end.

But as young people, we get sucked into bad fire, and once sucked in, we are on for the ride until it kills us.

Thankfully, our young people lived through burning destructive fire.

Now they are here, safe, clean and sober. They never have to go back.

The rooms might not have been where they really wanted to end up, but for most, I can safely say today, was the best choice they have all made in their lives.

And I get to know these young people.

The best part of my community is that young people are so glad to have us.

That thanking hug was the best part of the night.

Not to mention giving my number to a man, on his valiant return after a slip.

Pray for him.

Feed the RIGHT fire within …

Friday – Choices

tumblr_lndtyet7pF1qhlja3o1_500We are sitting at 11c at this hour, but I could have sworn it was colder than that.

I had checked the forecast prior to leaving, since I had been out earlier today, and it was markedly cooler outside. One layer was just not enough, so to play it safe tonight, I layered and wore a big comfy hoodie. My toque came in handy. I think next time, I am just going to go with my jacket, it’s warm and one layer …

Trains were in both stations on the way out and back, which made it painless and quick.

Tonight’s fare from A.B.S.I. was about choices:

“Looking back, we see that our freedom to choose badly was not, after all, a very real freedom.

When we choose because we “must,” this was not a free choice, either. But it got us started in the right direction.

When we choose because we “ought to,” we were really doing better. This time we were earning some freedom, making ourselves ready for more.

But when, now and then, we could gladly make right choices without rebellion, hold-out, or conflict, then we had our first view of what perfect freedom under God’s will could be like.”

When I was a boy, I listened to a great many things people said around me, and because of those words, I was faced with a choice that I had to make. There was nobody to talk this choice over with, nor was there another “choice” offered.

I could not be GAY at home, hence I had to leave to find my fortune.

The ONE piece of advice I got, was from a shrink who said the following:

If you want to fit in and become part of, go to the bar, sit on a stool, and have a drink, hell, have two, and see what happens.

That really wasn’t a choice, it was more like a command. Thinking, at my age, that that was my destiny, that that was what I had to do to find my way in, I took that choice. I know now that it was a bad choice, because my alcoholism followed me out of home, to where I went (read: Orlando).

Once again, I did not get any other choices offered. Nobody said Stop, and Nobody thought to ask me if I thought I had a problem.

I HAD a problem from day one.

When I turned twenty five, I hit one tragedy after another. The only way out of the pain was to drink. I did not see any other choice to deal with it. At Twenty six, when I got very sick and doctors told me I was going to die, once again, I made a choice, I tried to drink myself to death.

Another bad choice…

When Todd stepped in He finally said the word STOP. He really did not give me a choice in what was going to happen, but I guess you could say, I could have said “go fuck yourself!”

I didn’t.

He wanted me to live. And to do that, I would have to turn it all over to Him, (read: God) I “must” quit drinking, and I “must” find the will to live. These choices were “MUSTS.” They started me in the right direction.

But that success was short lived, because I got lonely, and based on that loneliness, I made another choice, once again, ill informed and solely based on self will.

I drank again.

When I took my last drink in December 2001, I had made another choice. A choice that I “ought” to make, because it was the right thing to do. I knew it was the end of the road, because to continue would have probably hastened death much quicker.

I wanted a way out of dead end living in misery, and getting sober was only one portion of that decision (read: Choice). The second came when I was offered a way out. I came to Montreal.

Once again, because I “ought to” take this once in a lifetime opportunity.

This time I did it right. I chose to connect with other folks in the program from the outset. I got connected right away. Those right decisions changed my life, in ways I did not imagine.

It has taken all this time, to find God, because that is who I was seeking. He didn’t need finding, He was right here all along. I just needed to reconnect. I’ve worked very hard at that over the years.

I am not ever alone. There are people to talk to. Life is full of things to do, people to see and choices to make. I’ve learned the importance of having the ability to NOT make decisions or choices all by myself any more.

I trust my God. And my days are not always carefree or easy. I must apply myself every day to make sure I do the right things, make the right choices, for the right reasons, at the right time.

Working with others, is a daily practice. And must come from the right place as well.

All I have to do is ask, when I am in need.

And God provides.

More to come, stay tuned …

Meteorological History Made in the Pacific

kilo ignacio jimena 3 cat 4 hurricanes in the pacificIn the center of this photo sits the Hawaiian Islands. On the Left, Hurricane Kilo, Just to the right of the Big Island is Hurricane Ignacio, and to the far right is Hurricane Jimena. This is a historical satellite photograph because we have never seen 3 – Category 4 – hurricanes spinning at the same time.

Today Typhoon Kilo has passed the international date line, and moves from Hurricane to Typhoon in the far Western Pacific.

Scientists tell us that these storms are not energized by the El Nino which is the warm current that appears in the Equatorial Pacific, these storms and also Hawaii are too far North of this element.

But we do know that what happens on one side of the world has a corresponding and opposing effect on the other side of the world.

El Nino has been known to drastically change weather patterns across the Pacific and North America. And well into the Atlantic.

It is September already and the Atlantic Hurricane season isn’t even off the ground yet. The one storm Fred is spinning off the Cape Verde Islands, and will probably spin into the Atlantic, it is located off 19.4 N and 29.1 W.

Thursday – The Blank Page Syndrome

sidneysheldonThe weather has been stellar these past few days. It was breezy cool this evening when we left for the meeting. Lows will be steady in the teens for the next week. It will be a full weekend, with the best night of the week tomorrow and the walk home, which I look forward to.

Saturday is going to be warm and sunny, which will be good, because the area is hosting a Sober Family Day on the west end of the city at the Loyola Campus of Concordia University. I got a free ticket tonight from a friend, so I will be going with Baby Mama and Baby LuLu.

For the past two weeks, I have made some significant progress with the baby. For a long time she would not let me hold her, and she would always want to be with mama, but as of late, she is coming around to me, little by slowly. She is happy when I visit and she is engaged and when I visit she goes nuts with her books and stuffed animals, passing them back and forth between me and mama. Wednesday nights, I carry over and cook dinner, this tradition was to make sure that they eat a good meal during the week, and to allow the baby to get to know me.

On Tuesday I was over for a bit before the meeting, and when it was time to leave, I put on my backpack and started for the door, LuLu took both mama and I’s hands and she walked us both to the elevator. That was the first time that she was comfortable holding my hand. And the last week, baby LuLu even lets me hold her, and she stays … that is big !!!

It’s all good.

I’ve begin writing this week. It is sometimes intimidating when you are looking at a blank page, because you need to write something, and sometimes I need to think about how I am going to write and about what. I have my outline, and there are stories that are on the surface, that I can write about. They are not necessarily in outline order. So I am collecting word documents on my desktop of the stories I can comfortably write about.

I still need to talk to my aunt about some things about the family portion of the story. I don’t want to end up telling a story about speculation, but of facts. I need to take care of this sooner than later.

Tonight we heard a friend speak.

They say, that if you stick around long enough, you will eventually hear someone tell your story. I think we hit that marker tonight. This lady friend, has been sober a while, and I had never heard her share, but she hit many familiar topics, and had several similar experiences in her life that I had in mine. She has had her process growing from a drunk into a woman who has emotional sobriety.

I did not get to speak to her after, but I will chat with her when I see her over the weekend.

How do children who grow up in negative homes grow up into mature, emotionally sober adults when we carry around negative baggage from our parents? She seemed to have conquered that dragon, as I have my own.

Like our thanker said tonight, our parents, who told us we were mistakes when we were kids, we are all grown up now, and we should thank those adults because we are beautiful people. And if it were not for them, we would not be here.

It was a good night.

More to come, tomorrow night.

Friday … God – Ikea … Discuss

fifteen years ago aug212000Fifteen years ago TODAY the world was introduced to Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Where were you when The Philosopher’s Stone was released?

The week came to an end on the best day of the week, and the best night of the week. The weather has softened a great deal from what it had been for the last week or so. We hit a number of thirty degree days, with humidexes running from the mid thirties into the forties.

It was so hot and miserable that our little air conditioner that could was having a hard time trying to cool down the apartment. The last few nights, at midnight, the apartment was still stifling hot and my sweat was sweating …

I am reminded that if I complain about the heat, to remember what minus twenty with three feet of snow on the ground feels like ! I, like some of my friends, would rather it be cold outside, rather than steaming humid heat.

The nightly lows are dropping into the mid teens. I am banking on some TENS soon !

Ten is that magic number that we can crate the a.c. and open the windows for a few weeks, while it is still manageable, before it gets too cold, and we then have to shut the apartment down for another winter season.

We sat a full house and split the group up for discussion. Once again, the read was about that ever popular topic among our folks – God. The read speaks towards the clergy and how many an alcoholic turned their noses up at the mere thought of religion, when trying to get sober.

And how it really came down to one alcoholic talking to another, and showing the way.

We find this historical story about Bill.

Bill knew that he could not stay sober by himself. While in Towns Hospital, we’ve spoken about this location before, Bill had had a spiritual experience. And in his mind, it was apparent that he had to share this message with others, the only problem with that message was, that it was about God and his spiritual experience.

Nobody wanted to hear about God, so they rebuffed him.

Bill then heads to Akron to talk with Doctor Silkworth. Dr. Silkworth tells him that he needs to change up his game, and not talk so much about God, but of his own experience, strength and hope.

Enter Doctor Bob … and the Fellowship of A.A. began.

It has been a long time for our young folks to come around, and find that power greater than themselves. The stories vary as much as they are united in the same thought. Most of our men and women come, and at first, won’t hear about God, nor will they admit anything to Him either.

Many almost go insane … as DRY unbelievers until they hit the misery point of no return, and possibly concede that there might be something for them to connect to. One way or another, numbers of our folks have found that power. What they call it varies as the number of people sitting in the room on any given Friday night.

ikea3Every so often we get a visitor from another part of the world. And invariably, what that visitor has to say is compelling to say the least. Tonight, we heard a man from Northern Ireland, and the topic speaks about God, Clergy, and the Church. Our man, grew up amid “The Troubles” that fatal conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland.

It seemed that the room went still and everybody listened to him speak.

He shared his experiences in his life as it pertained to the reading.

He went on the share this:

He had heard, on CBC radio one day, an interview of a Jewish man who wrote about his God of his understanding. He likened that God to an Ikea store. Everybody knows what IKEA is, and the fact that most of the world is built by Ikea, one way or another.

It is said, that if you are married or sober and walk into an Ikea and buy something complicated, bring that piece home and build it, if you survive that task and you are still married and or sober, you have succeeded.

He likens God to an Ikea Pack. We go to the store and we buy the item. Then we bring it home and in essence, we have to build whatever that piece is. Inside that mammoth store, there are lots of things to buy, in assorted styles, colors and shapes.

God is like all those colors, shapes and styles. One style usually does not fit all people.

Most people are cookie cutters or they are cafeteria style folks. One opting to copy the last in belief and practice, the other, tends to pick and choose just what they will take or not take over time, and they built what they can handle or stomach, until they either find something bigger or better, or remain where they are, until either growth or implosion takes place.

It went something like that. I would need to investigate further who this guy was talking about and what book he was referring to.

It was the God – Ikea reference that piqued my interest.

It was a great night. My Mount Royal buddy is in Brazil until October, so he is not here to sit with on weekend, nor walk home together. The weather was just right, so I decided to walk from the church all the way to the Mount Royal Metro station which is a walk from the meeting.

While the weather is still good, I enjoy the walk.

Everybody is good. It seems everyone is in a good place, which is the Good News.

More to come, stay tuned…